Solar Power & Your Home

Solar panels are appearing on roofs of homes in neighborhoods throughout the area. As systems become more efficient and government tax incentives make solar energy more affordable – and even an income producer in some cases – an increasing number of homeowners are taking the plunge into renewable energy. 

In fact, increased affordability in recent years has allowed the United States to pass Japan to its current rank of 4th in the world in solar energy production, behind major producers that include Germany, China and Italy. 

Is solar right for you? 

Rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, are the most common solar technology used for homes. Today, almost 450,000 homes and businesses have solar power systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Over the past few years, the cost of solar panel systems has decreased dramatically — more than 50% since 2010 — making this energy-producing tool a more affordable option for many homeowners. If you are installing solar on your residence, government incentives (Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit) further increase the affordability. The Federal Government offers significant tax incentives for homeowners who install approved renewable energy systems; these incentives expire in 2021. A website,, offers local details of grants and other incentives available to homeowners. Another website,, details Federal Tax Credits as well as instructions on how to apply for the credit.

Worried about aesthetics? 

If you don’t like the look of traditional solar arrays, you can now buy solar-powered rooftop shingles that blend seamlessly into your roof. Both Dow and CertainTeed manufacture solar shingles that are similar in efficiency to traditional solar panels. Installation costs are slightly higher for solar shingles; however, if you need to install a new roof before installing solar panels, this option may save you money.

My community has an HOA. Can I install solar?

Two dozen states, including Maryland have “solar access rights” laws that limit homeowner associations from banning solar panels. This law overrides your homeowners’ association contract that restricts you from installing the panels. This doesn’t mean your homeowner association can’t place a few community restrictions; HOAs can still enforce where to put your panels or how to install them– these laws usually say that some restrictions are still possible. But if your HOA denies your request to have solar panels installed, you can recite the law, or, in the worst case scenario, you can sue your HOA and let the courts decide.

I’ve got a long-term lease on my solar panels and now I want to move.

You have options. If you plan to sell your home, solar energy companies make it easy to transfer the lease for solar panels to a buyer. Some will also transfer your solar panel system to your new home. If you plan to transfer your panels to a buyer, speak with your Realtor® about disclosing lease costs as well as promoting energy savings. Not all buyers are familiar with the benefits of solar, so it’s important to show that the added cost of a solar lease will also allow them to reap the benefit of reduced energy costs. Most solar leasing companies will allow the lease to transfer easily to a buyer, making the process a fairly painless part of the real estate transaction.

What is the real impact of solar panel systems on a home’s value? 

The impact on home value varies from market to market. In the past, appraisers have had difficulty finding comps to properly address the added value of solar panels, but that will change as more homes adopt solar. According to a recent study by the solar energy industry, the average sales price of homes with solar in the Baltimore Metro area is 2.52% higher than those without (approx. $13,667). However, the sample studied was not statistically significant. In fact, anecdotally, solar is still a novelty and may increase a buyer’s interest in a property but not increase their desire to pay more for such a property, particularly if they will be assuming a lease for solar panels. As such, the decision to adopt solar should not be based solely upon the potential for an increased selling price.

Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association,,

- Debbie Pavlik

Send your house to the head of the class - Smart Home Technology is no longer a thing of the future.

Have you ever left home only to wonder if you closed your garage door? Or, have you ever come home after dark and wished your lights would turn on when you opened the door? If only our homes could send us messages when something is amiss or interact with us to meet our needs. Well, they can, and they do.

Wifi and smart phones have expanded the realm of smart technology for homes. New wireless systems go beyond home security and allow homeowners to remotely control and monitor home systems from anywhere in the world via their smart phone, including:

·         Lighting – dimmers and switches, light bulbs, landscape lighting

·         Safety & Security – security cameras, door locks, alarm systems, smoke & CO detectors, garage doors

·         Energy Management – thermostat, outlet controls, water heater, irrigation systems

·         Lifestyle – pet doors, coffee makers, eggs (yes, eggs)

New systems are introduced almost monthly, and consumers can purchase them online or at leading home improvement and office supply retailers. Since the systems are wireless – most require a hub that taps into your internet modem – the devices are easily installed by the home owner. Plus, monitoring costs are significantly lower than those of traditional home security companies – if a consumer decides they want monitoring. These new systems are unique in that they allow the consumer to self monitor their home. In fact, most systems allow the user to interface with and control their home, even view a video feed, using an app on their smart phone.

Iris – Marketed by Lowe’s, Iris offers a full complement of home comfort and security devices. Iris is sold in stores and online, and Lowe’s offers specialized starter bundles for home automation and home security. Or, consumers can buy the devices they need a la carte, from smart plugs to dimmer switches to garage door openers to water heater shut-off valves and more. They also offer monitoring service for security as well as care service – get instant text messages for personal emergencies or if a loved one’s normal routine is disrupted. Use Iris magic to turn on lights or initiate video monitoring when a door is opened or other designated event happens. (see for more information)

Nest – One of the original off-the-shelf systems, Nest offers thermostat control, smoke alarms and video cameras. They have also started partnering with other companies to allow everyday household items such as light bulbs, washers and dryers, ceiling fans and more to interact with Nest devices. Nest is currently working with Google to connect more products. (see for more information)

Wink – Similar to Iris, Wink operates as a hub and an app (free from App Store and Google Play) that control a la carte devices in your home. Not all devices require the hub; some work off the app on your smart phone. Choose from a variety of security devices, home safety devices and home comfort. You can even add an egg minder that monitors the number and age of eggs in your refrigerator! Wink also interfaces with Nest. Again, like Iris, Wink devices can work in conjunction with each other to, for example, turn on lights when a triggering event occurs. Wink is available from Home Depot and (see for more information)

Others – There are numerous options in the growing smart home market. A few other players include: Homeseer, Revolv, Belkin WeMo and SmartHome to name a few. If you’re considering improving your home’s technology, research the different systems to determine which offer the devices and systems that best suit your lifestyle. 

- Debbie Pavlik

5 Things Every New Homeowner Should Do (within the first week of moving in)

Congratulations! You have finished the settlement process and are given the keys to your new home.  What items should be put on your immediate TO-DO list?  Here are the top 5 items that the Wendy Slaughter Team recommends:

1. Change the Locks

You do not know how many sets of keys have been given to neighbors or contractors who have worked on the home, so to be on the safe side, change your locks.

2. Reprogram Garage Door Openers and Alarm Systems

Many garage door remotes have a reset button that you can hold down to re-program. If you have an exterior garage door keypad, you should change the code as well. You should also reprogram your alarm system keypads with your own codes. Use Google to find the instruction manuals for the systems.

3. Replace the Furnace Filters

If the airflow is blocked, the efficiency of your unit is compromised.  Not only will replacing your filter make your heating bills lower, but it will also make your furnace more efficient.

Replacing an HVAC filter

4. Replace Batteries in Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There is no way for you to know how old the batteries are in these detectors, so to be safe, you should replace the batteries as soon as you move into your house. Moving forward, it’s recommended you change the batteries twice a year when you change the clocks for daylight savings time.

5. Check the Temperature Setting on the Hot Water Heater

The previous owners may have liked it hot hot hot! Check the settings and make adjustments if needed.

- Debbie Gottwals

The Simple Explanation of Energy Deregulation

In July of 2000, lawmakers in Maryland changed regulation and gave consumers the freedom to choose their own energy supplier. Typically these suppliers were able to offer natural gas and electric at lower rates than the local utility company. Customers who do not shop for supply of electric from an alternate electric provider in Maryland receive Standard Offer Service from their utility company and prices change every six months.

It may be more beneficial to take advantage of competitive prices from other energy providers because electric prices are affected by the wholesale market. Natural gas prices vary monthly. The monthly fluctuations mean that customers can be exposed to volatile swings in prices. Customers can avoid these swings in gas supply charge by contracting with an alternative gas supplier. The utility company still plays a vital role in the process as they ensure that your energy is safely delivered to your home or business, track your usage, maintain the infrastructure and send you your bill. The only difference being that if you choose a separate supplier, there will be a line item with your natural gas and electricity supplier.

The bottom line is, it’s all about saving money where we can, when we can!

- Beth Viscarra